KOICHIRO MATSUURA has embarked on an anti-corruption drive in his role as the new director-general of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation.
Mr Matsuura, 62, defeated 10 other eminent candidates to replace Spanish biochemist Federico Mayor, who has completed two six-year terms. He arrives amid revelations of corruption, cronyism and nepotism, financial waste and inefficiency at UNESCO.
An independent report carried out by the Canadian government revealed that about 40 per cent of senior appointments and one-third of promotions were not made through proper channels; there were no inventories of technical equipment; and activities were not monitored or evaluated.
Mr Matsuura declared that "failings, where verified, must be made good". He plans to strengthen management, introducing clearer lines of accountability, and "streamline" activities.
But his own appointment came under fire from supporters of rival candidates, who complained that Japan, which is UNESCO's biggest financial contributor, had secured it for their man by hard bargaining and bribery.
Mr Matsuura, the first Asian to hold the post, inherits a long agenda that includes comprehensive educational programmes concerning every level from nursery to life-long learning. There is also the hope that the United States will rejoin UNESCO 15 years after it left in protest at alleged corruption and political bias.
A career diplomat, Mr Matsuura's last post was as Japan's ambassador to France. He was elected chair of UNESCO's World Heritage Committee in 1998.
In his inaugural address last week, Mr Matsuura raised the challenge of the "soaring demands on education" in the developing world, an issue which will be addressed at the World Education Forum next April in Senegal.
In preparation for this landmark conference, UNESCO is one of the bodies piloting the Education for All 2000 Assessment which, with 180 participating countries, is the most in-depth investigation into basic education ever undertaken.